God is with me in the shifting…a post by Joy

In the journey of Christian Spiritual Formation, when everything is shifting on the inside of our souls, like shifting sands of the sea, there is typically shifting in our external world as well. It can either paralyze us or inspire us to move forward one step at a time. Choosing to sit still to “Be with God” is not a posture of paralysis. It is a position of honoring God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit who live within us. Yet, when we are working, serving, or playing, these are also positions of honoring His presence in us. We are NEVER without His Presence. Such an encouraging promise from Scripture, Matthew 28:20, states: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 13:5 also reminds us of His omnipresence. “For God has said, ‘I will NEVER fail you. I will NEVER forsake you.’ “

There is no human being who has ever been able to give this kind of promise, even with our best efforts. Whether I am paralyzed, moving forward, or moving backward, God is with me. Truly, thanks be to God!

What are you exploring?…a post by Tom

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

– T.S. Eliot

 

What are you looking for? A better sense of self? A better home and garden? More knowledge about the Divine or your divinely inspired pursuits? An idealized Christianity or church to validate a privatized salvation project? To figure out your dysfunctional family system? Untie some knotty existential shoelaces tightened by primal repression so that you no longer trip over fear, guilt, and shame? A well balanced portfolio? Some peace and quiet.

Augustine said somewhere that the heart is restless until it rests in God. We come out of the womb kicking and screaming and often we go out that way. Kickers and screamers in this world seem to be the majority populace and unfortunately dominate the airwaves.  Unless, we happen to come home to God and our true self rooted in endless Love.   This doesn’t seem to happen until we explore and to explore means to fail. We can’t explore without risk or uncertainty. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the center.” -Joseph Campbell.

It’s all there in the story of prodigal son, which surprisingly is really about the Father. The son sets out to explore the far country and ends up right where he began, at home but this time knowing himself as the beloved son home for the first time. We come from God and we are returning to God. Jesus said I know where I came from and I know where I am going. His invitation and gift to us is to KNOW this place within us called the kingdom of God for the first time.   The sooner the better for us and the planet.  Still kicking and screaming? Not sure if you have arrived at your arrival? Then go out and explore! And wherever you go, God will be eagerly waiting for your arrival.

Advent and the Particularity of God’s Love…a post by Rich

The season of Advent is upon us and as Christians we turn our hearts in preparation for the coming celebration of the birth of the Messiah, our Savior. A theme we often attended to here at CrossPoint is the particularity of God’s love. Thomas Oden considered the incarnation the “scandal of particularity.” God in his wisdom makes himself know to us in and through a very particular Jewish man. But there is more to the scandal than God simply making himself know in Jesus. The crux of the scandal is that this Jewish man, with a real family history -hence the gospel genealogies- is in fact the Son of God! God is now made know to us and is with us in Jesus. As Jesus put it, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. . . “ (John 14:9) And as the writer of Hebrews makes clear, “but in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son . . . He, (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God (the Father) and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb. 1:3)  Scandalous it is, to say the least. God loves us in this very particular person, Jesus!

There is endless mystery and beauty within the story of our Savior’s birth. The humble and yet truly beautiful response of Mary to the Angelic announcement. The Angelic confirmation for the anxious Joseph that comes to him in the quiet dark mystery of a dream while sleeping. The notoriously dishonest Shepherds are the first to herald the good news- ah, God’s ways are not our ways. And the deep longing of the wise men compelling them to follow a star surrounded by the heaven’s darkness. And there is much more that is filled with beauty and wonder. But that which is most beautiful and for sure the grandest of all mysteries is that in this particular Jewish man, this Son of God, has come to show us the love of God and in so doing loves each one of us particularly.

The particularity of God’s acts in Christ manifests the particularity of God’s love. God’s love is not a generic love but it is a specific particular love of individuals. It is a love that greets individual men the likes of Andrew, Peter, James and John. It is a love that reaches out to the woman at the well. He touches deeply the lives of Mary and Martha. It is the love that notices the woman in the crowd who suffered so long and touched him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. The blind man crying out for mercy, and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” There is the widow of Nain whose only son died. Jesus notices and raises him from the dead. The gospel narratives tell us again and again of the wonder of the love of Christ that is specific and particular. A love that greets each person in the depths of their soul. And it is no less true for you and for me! What wondrous beauty what glorious mystery that we should be loved in Christ so deeply and lavishly by our Heavenly Father.

The humility that blankets the entire gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus points ahead to the great humiliation of the Cross. Here the love of God shines forth in its fullest glory for “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) The love of God is this particular! God’s love addresses the specifics of our individual and corporate sin. It enters the darkest places of any and every individual’s soul and brings “the light of life.” (Jn.8:12) And all of this love comes to us as a gift of grace, even more beauty and mystery. Who can truly comprehend this love? We need only to surrender and trust.

Our Savior has come! Immanuel, God with us. So then, we rejoice! We give thanks. And we rest in him. May it be so for each and every one of us in this Advent season. May we again receive afresh the love of God who sent his Son as our Savior and the Savior of the world!

Trusting God’s Faithfulness…a post by Joy

As Christ transforms us daily to be more like Him, sometimes He allows delight and sometimes He allows pain to do the transformational work in us.

Sometimes being present and vulnerable with the painful challenges in our lives is what creates the most beauty in the long run. Our lives are not about living without pain and struggles. It’s more about how we respond to what happens to us along the way.  Psalm 37:4–”Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  If our greatest desire is to know God and to become more like Him, we have to be mindful that we  are not promised to have only “good times” on this journey of life.  We have to remember that even Jesus wept.

What we are able to harvest from the deepest terrain of pain can bring the greatest delight and steadfastness in a relationship with the Holy Three in One. It comes at a great cost to us. And it certainly was a great sacrifice for Jesus in the first place.  The grace He bestows on our lives during these times are truly the times He gives “beauty for ashes.”

It seems that our invitation in situations of the painful knowns and unknowns is to fully trust God that He will BE WITH US no matter what, trust Him to guide and direct us each step of the way,  and depend on His  unconditional love that reflects His faithfulness to us.  (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I invite you to listen to this song entitled: Faithful One by Robin Mark.

I hope it is an encouragement to your heart and soul.

Who knew?…a post by Tom

The spiritual life is not easy. Our false self does not go down without a fight, and one to the death. This is a really inconvenient battle to wage when it is challenging enough to just live life.  Who really knew what we were signing up for in following Jesus and taking this journey seriously? Who really knew that the path would evolve and feel more like death and descent? The One Who guides us knows. Others who have gone before know. Be encouraged by the following quote from Joseph Benner an American Protestant mystic who seems to know.

You, My Beloved, who have consecrated yourself to Me, and are bending every effort to find union with Me, but instead have found apparently that every prop of the World’s support has been withdrawn or is being withdrawn, and that you are without money and without friends, and know not where to turn for human help.

Learn, My Blessed One, that you are very, very, close now, and that if you will only continue to abide in Me, letting my Word abide in you and guide you, resting and trusting absolutely in My Promise, I will very soon bring to you a Joy, a Fulfillment, a Peace, that human words and human minds cannot possibly picture.

For you have obeyed My Commands, and have trusted Me, and have sought first My Kingdom and My Righteousness, and therefore will I add all other things unto you, even those the World has denied you.

-Joseph Benner, The Impersonal Life

Check Your Posture…a post by Joy

Christian Spiritual Formation is a journey that is one of posturing ourselves to be awakened to the process of coming back to the true self of who God created us to be. The posturing is sometimes difficult. It can require us to be still or it can require us to step into something new because we have been still long enough.

Being still requires us to let go of distractions of work, family life, or being busy for the sake of busyness. Stepping into something new requires that we let go of what feels safe and familiar. Which ever space we find ourselves, the action of “letting go” is hard work. It always involves the spiritual discipline of discernment. Trusting God in the journey of His transformational work in this process is also a way of posturing or placing ourselves intentionally into His care. Sometimes the act of that trust is to “Be Still”; sometimes it means to step forward and maybe even step backwards.

Part of the “letting go” can include a time of grief so that the loss can be acknowledged and accepted in order to move forward. Yet, in all of these steps of whether we are sitting, moving, grieving, or any other posturing, we can be comforted that “….Christ is with us always, to the very end of the age. “

Matthew 28:20. May the peace of Christ be with us always!

Surely God is in this place…a post by Tom

“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’ –Genesis 28:16

Jacob was on the run from his brother who wanted to kill him. Jacob whose name means ‘deceiver’ had maneuvered himself into the patriarchal blessing and birthright by tricking his Dad and also taking advantage of his brother. As he was fleeing and making his way to his Uncle’s house he stopped to rest. It was in this vulnerable and exposed ‘in between space’ that he had a fantastic dream and awoke to his conclusion that God was there! He then called that space Bethel which means house of God.

The human condition is on the run. Plagued with fear, manipulation, maneuvering, and trickery we are running from something. We think we have to fool our way into God’s good graces and blessings. In doing so we make a mess of our lives and end up running from what is essential. Yet the funny and sad truth is that what we are running from and looking for is the same thing!

Sometimes it is in these ‘liminal’ spaces when we are in between relationships, jobs, locations, religions, political beliefs, or whatever that we actually stop to rest. It is in these spaces that we are finally vulnerable and exposed and God can get at us! What does he want to get at us with? His love and reminder of our birthright and blessing! We are the beloveds no matter what and His promises aren’t related to our behavior but to an unconditional covenant cut with Abraham by grace through faith and made reality through Jesus. It is our big brother Jesus, not Esau, who is chasing us to remind us of our birthright and blessing!

The shocking revelation of the New Testament is that I am a temple of the Holy Spirit a walking and breathing Bethel. That in each and every eternal moment God is in this place! The issue is that I am too preoccupied to know it. Thank God for those liminal spaces where this can be revealed. May I encounter each moment with childlike wonder and awe that God is in this place, especially when I am on the run.

Forgiveness…a post by Tom

This past Sunday was the fourth week of the Lenten journey. One of the readings was from Psalm 32. Consider these words from David…

Psalm 32:1–2 (ESV)

        Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

        Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

This man knows about forgiveness. This man knows about mercy. He knows that true happiness is possible for the one who has been forgiven…much. In a grief recovery group we cover the topic of forgiveness. We discuss how forgiveness involves giving up the hope for a different yesterday or better past. We discuss how forgiveness involves letting go of resentment towards another person or situation over an injury. We discuss how forgiveness is really for our benefit and not the other. We are the ones punishing ourselves with anger when we harbor an unforgiving attitude. The dictionary entry for forgiveness is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone over a fault. If God has forgiven us then He has released us from our past. If God has forgiven us then He harbors no resentment or anger towards us. If God has forgiven us then we are indeed blessed.  So are we happy?

Right now what is your view of God? Is He angry with you over your sin? Is He resentful toward you over your past history? If that is the case then you are probably not a happy person and nor is your spirituality healthy.  If that is the case then your view of God is not very forgiving or Biblical.

Being In Christ

In my last blog post I (Rich) wrote of our being grounded in the love of God. It is not our loving that is the essential thing, but our being love by the Trinitarian God. We long to belong and our deepest sense of belonging is in Christ. Our longing for our truest place is satisfied not by something we create or achieve but it is a gift from God. The gift of eternal life is ours by faith. This eternal life is nothing less than God’s life in us (the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit) and our life in him (our life is now hidden in Christ with God). Our belonging is then our participating in the life of the Trinitarian God.

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contemplation, soul, Mark 8:36

A Soul for All Seasons

Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons captures the life and death of Sir Thomas More in a compelling way. As the story proceeds we are introduced to Richard Rich, a promising and ambitious young man. Rich asks Thomas More for a position among the privileged at the court of Henry VIII. Thomas says he cannot do that. But he can offer Rich the position of a simple teacher.The upwardly driven man is crestfallen. Thomas tries to cheer him up: “You’d be a good teacher.” Rich fires back, “And if I were, who would know it?” Patiently Thomas explains, “Yourself, your friends, your pupils, God; pretty good public that!” Rich walks away dejected and determined not to be a lowly teacher.

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